Packing. It feels like the end.

Wednesday: Right after breakfast I headed out to Apache Junction, in search of an auto glass place that would help me with my van window (passenger window is stuck down). After a bit of hunting, I found a place. The guy seemed to know immediately what the problem was, and said he would order the parts and they could probably do it this afternoon. Whew!

Back at the ranch, Sue is feverishly packing. Cleaned the 2 extra bedrooms. Cleaned the bathrooms. Most of the kitchen supplies are neatly arranged on the counter. Sue keeps saying how we’re not going to have room for all our stuff. Books are in a bag. I fiddled with Alex’s wallhanging in the van. Bikes are ready to be packed up (but I can’t do it because of the broken window). I put the screens back on the dining room window. Temperature today is very nice — a bit of a wind to help keep things comfortable.

After lunch we watched a Mike Wallace tribute on Charlie Rose. Charlotte from next door stopped by and we arranged for her visit on Friday morning to check the house before we go. Then we read and frittered away time until it was time to go golfing. Nobody else on the course. This is the best time of year to go golfing. Except that my golf game is shitty. Well, not quite as bad today as yesterday, but definitely not as good as it should be considering how much time Sue and I have spent on this course. Shot a 53, Sue a 52.

Chicken on the 'barby'Went to Walgreens to pick up our last DVD rental (Johnny English, a ‘Mr Bean’/James Bond comedy). Then we went home for gin and tonics and a barbecue. Chicken. With leftover rice and potatoes. Alex skyped and told us about her supper with my folks and a couple of messages on our home phone.

We ‘watched’ the movie — well, the parts of it where I wasn’t snoozing — and were in bed by ten o’clock.

Last day in Gold Canyon!

Thursday: It’s my dad’s birthday. I tried calling him but got the voicemail — it’s 8:30 at home and already they are out celebrating! Today is the last day here! Woke up just after 5 and got up not long after that. It’s a bit cooler today. Supposed to be that way for the weekend, maybe even rain. I guess we’ll miss that. Sue says it will be cold at home when we get there next week. Sue was doing laundry at 6. More packing.

Window repair shopI went to get the van window repaired. The appointment was for 8 and I was there early. The guy drives in my van and pushes the button and rolls up the stuck window! Hey, what’s up? He tried it a few more times and it failed. So he determined that is was the switch. So they replace the switches in both doors and $225 later I’m on my way home. I washed the van. Then spent the rest of the morning squeezing 3 bikes (our 2 and Robert Dyck’s road bike) into the back of the van. Add four golf bags. And my little office chair. And the big Rubbermaid container. Two suitcases. My big computer box.

After a quick lunch we headed back into Apache Junction. We had 3 dental appointments. First, the girl that cleaned my teeth did another inspection (and cleaning) and polished my teeth. Then we headed into Mesa and visited an implant surgeon to get the lowdown on what’s up with her sinuses. Estimated cost to repair: $10,000 to $15,000. Then to another orthodontist to see about braces for Rudy. Yep, could and should be done. Made an appointment for November 1, 2012 at 9:00am. Estimated cost: $5,000.00 for 22 months of adjustments, etc.

Then we headed to the Total Wine store in Santan to pick up another big bottle of gin. And to Walmart for some cosmetics for Sue. Then back to the house. I guess it’s too late now for one last game of golf.

So we had appetizers and happy hour. More cleaning. Leftovers for supper. Tried calling my dad one more time. Again, answering machine. So I left another message. Sue is busy packing. Cleaning. Packing. Work, work, work. Laundry. One last shower. A bit of TV. Off to bed.

Farewell to Gold Canyon

Gold Canyon house -- all ready for the summerFriday: Got up at 6:30. Packed and cleaned. Moved the outdoor furniture in. Unplugged things. Emptied the fridge. Charlotte came over to inspect. She was happy to have the leftovers from our fridge. Mike came over and said goodbye. I tried washing off the oil stains on the driveway. The van looks like the Beverly Hillbillies’ wagon — it’s stuffed to the roof.

Left at 9:30. Dropped off the modem and settop box at Mediacom. Then we headed out to the Bush Highway. Up to Holbrook, to the same Dairy Queen we stopped at the last two times we’ve driven this route (first time down here, then again a year ago on the way home, and now again). Burger and milkshake. Beautiful country.

Then east to Albuquerque, and on through New Mexico. Listened to the Tina Fey audiobook (“Bossy Pants”) for 2 hours. Got to Amarillo, TX at around 10pm local time (lost 2 hours with the time change and Daylight Savings time difference). We went to a nearby Outback Steakhouse for steak, lobster, and coconut shrimp. A late supper, but a great supper!

Then we went to the Quality Inn where we had a reservation. The room was nicely appointed, but not clean. Worn. Hard. We watched a bit of TV. Checked email. Noticed a Winnipeg Free Press front page story warning about serious tornado threats EXACTLY over the midwest US — the same region that we planned to drive through on the way home tomorrow, centered over Omaha, Nebraska, where we planned to stay for night tomorrow! Oh well. We’ll rethink this tomorrow. Maybe we’ll stay here for 2 nights and let the storm blow over. No need to endanger ourselves.

I went to lie down on the bed and write my journal. Fell asleep right away. Too tired from a long day of driving to stay up any later than 11pm. Zzzzzz….

Avoiding Tornadoes!

Saturday: Woke up at 8. It’s rained, but it looks okay outside. Checked the weather channel. Sue got us coffee and yogurt and pastries from the breakfast buffet. No help from the front desk about the weather. We decided that rather than sit here in this dirty hotel room and watch TV all day, we might as well drive north and see how far we get. I checked the bra on the van — it’s been inflating and bulging out as we drive along — but couldn’t see any easy way to tighten it. We filled up gas and were off.

The road was good. The sky was partly cloudy. Warm. Sun. Lots of trucks on the road. Not enough 4 lane. We had opted to head for North Platte, Nebraska — hoping thereby to avoid the area to the east of it which is expected to get the serious dangerous weather.

Drove like that all morning. No problem. Listened to the rest of the Tina Fey audiobook on the car stereo.

Stopped for lunch just before 12 at a McDonalds in Liberal, Kansas. As we pulled into town the rain started to fall. As we exited the van it began to REALLY fall. POURED on us. We got into the restaurant soaking wet. Stood in front the hand dryer in the washroom for a while. Reminded me of the day we got caught in a downpour on our 2003 Cross-Canada cycling trip and spent much of the morning in a Tim Hortons washroom, trying to dry out.

After we ordered our lunch we sat and ate it and looked out the window at the lovely day. No more rain! If only we had just waited in the van for FIVE minutes. Oh well, it’s an experience. We have more clothes in the van. In fact, after lunch Sue got naked in the van and changed into her dirty clothes from yesterday. We draped our jackets and socks over the back seat of the van and headed back on the road. North. To Nebraska.

The heat in the van was on high. And it didn’t take long to dry out our shoes and socks. Our pants and shirts. And the rain was over!

Feed lotsThe drive continued to be enjoyable. Mostly 2-lane, but not so many trucks, and I was going about 70mph in the 65mph zones. But the clouds around us were definitely interesting! I kept looking for funnel clouds around us. Once we got into northwestern Kansas, and then into southwestern Nebraska, the rains began again. And lots of movement in the dark clouds all around us. We got to North Platte and decided to pull over and maybe wait this thing out. Sat on a Ramada Inn parking lot and looked out the window. But if a tornado hits us here, how is this better than driving along the road? So after a few minutes of that, we decided to keep going.

We were listening to the local radio now. And about 5 miles north of North Platte it started to pour again. I pulled over. A semi and 2 cars went by me. Okay, I’m going back on the road too. As we kept driving the guy on the radio starts warning everyone to take shelter. In North Platte. In the basement of your house. If you’re on the road, get off it. Huh? Yes, there is now marble-sized hail in North Platte. And a tornado has been sighted. And then another tornado is sighted. And this is all happening 10 minutes behind us! We keep driving. It’s not so bad! But the county we are entering has already been hit hard, according to the radio guy.

We kept on going. And although the skies continued to be dark and interesting, we really never had any trouble driving — no real downpours, no really high winds, no hail or tornado.

The Garmin was suggesting that hotels and restaurants would be no problem in Valentine, Nebraska, but if we opted to continue and go up Murdo, SD or on to Mitchell, SD (near Sioux Falls) we would be taking our chance with restaurants and fewer hotels. Okay, we’ll stop a little early today. We can drive a LONG day tomorrow, since we don’t have to worry about finding a place for tomorrow night.

So at 7:30 we pulled into Valentine, NE. Drive right by the little Drive-in where we stopped for a meal a year ago — and we can’t even remember when or why we would have driven through this town! Booked a room at the Comfort Inn. Then went to Peppermill, the local restaurant, and had supper.

Back in our room, Sue called Alex (who had read about the dangerous weather this afternoon and was worried about us) and let her know we were safe. She’s having a birthday party for herself at her house. We drank some wine and warmed up and watched the weather channel — looks like we avoided quite a few tornadoes and some serious weather today! Let’s hope it blows over and we’re in for a great final day of driving (11 hours from home here) tomorrow.

Getting home, the hard way

Sunday: Our last official day of this ‘holiday’. Okay, it’s not really a holiday — it’s our life. But the last day of this road trip, anyway.

We had breakfast in the Comfort Inn — and hit the road by 8:00am. Went straight north up into South Dakota. Lots of rain, and some serious headwinds. But the roads were mostly empty and I was hoping that once we turned east we would escape some of the rain. And that’s how it went. We were sailing along towards Sioux Falls. Roads were good. Heavy clouds moving all around us, but not much rain.

Wind and rain all the way home!Then once we got close to Sioux Falls it turned nasty. Huge winds. Hail! I stopped for a moment, but then decided that it was probably just as well for me to keep moving. We turned onto the I-29 and headed north. Wind was seriously pushing us from the west. I had to hang onto the steering wheel with both hands.

Driving conditions were horrible!We stopped at a McDonald’s for lunch. Sue offered to drive for a bit to give me a break. I was probably just as tense as she was for the next hour. Rain pounded us. Fields were already flooded. Every time we passed someone or they passed us, the wind shear caused the van to veer out of its lane. We traded positions again. By now I felt I had a better sense of control behind the wheel.

When we hit Fargo the worst of the weather was behind us. We turned off the I-29 near Drayton and headed for the Tolstoi border crossing. Sure enough, the line-up was only 3 or 4 vehicles ahead of us, no one behind. No one had to open their trunk. A short visit with the customs guy and they were through. Same with us. Didn’t really ask us anything about what we bought. The only hitch was when he asked us about alcohol — Sue volunteered that we had a ‘big’ bottle (1.75 litres) of gin. Oh, oh. What to do. Pour out half of it? Pay 78 cents per ounce over the limit (about $20)? No. It’s lots of paperwork to confiscate the booze. Promise you won’t do this again. And we’re through.

We arrived home at 7:30pm. It is FREEZING COLD here. Two degrees! Once again, it seems we are home too early in the season. The house is all good. Only a couple of burned out light bulbs this time! The kids have turned on the furnace and the water. Internet is connected. Sue calls Shaw Cable and in a couple of minutes the TV is working. A couple of cold beers in the fridge. No supper though. A few phone calls to parents and children. My mom invites us to come over for a late supper. We do that.

And that’s it. We’re right back at home, almost like we never left!